Biking from Parliament Hill to Ottawa South

Someone recently asked via Twitter if there is a safe way to bike from Parliament Hill to the Ottawa Hospital General Campus that avoids the ‘horrible Smyth Road bridge’. I’ve been meaning to post a route for commuters biking to and from Ottawa South that avoids Main Street as much as possible, at least until they’ve finished the Main Street – Complete Street renewal. So here is a route indicated by the blue line on the map below, starting at Parliament Hill to the Ottawa Hospital General Campus and beyond through the rest of Ottawa South.

The green line on the map is a slightly different section taken on the way back to avoid crazy Lees Avenue, because it doesn’t have a bike lane heading west.

UPDATE – Spring 2016: An important link along this route, the bike path along the transit bridge over the Rideau River, is closed for LRT construction Until January 2018. An alternative route around this construction site is described in this more recent post.

Start
Start

Leave Parliament Hill, cross Wellington and head a short distance down Elgin Street.

Elgin St
Elgin St

Turn down the ramp beside the NAC across for the War Memorial, like so.

Ramp heading down beside the NAC to the canal
Ramp heading down beside the NAC to the canal

Ride all the way down the ramp past the NAC stage door, and get on the bike path that runs along the canal.

Path along the Rideau Canal
Path along the Rideau Canal

Take the pedestrian/bike bridge over the canal across from Ottawa of University, like so.

Bike and pedestrian bridge over the canal
Bike and pedestrian bridge over the canal

Continue south along the other side of the canal. Just before the path goes under the Queensway take the turn off that brings you up along Colonel By Drive to Pretoria Bridge, as indicated by the sign in the middle of the fork in the path. You won’t see the big white directional arrow on the path. I photoshopped it in.

Turn off towards Pretoria Bridge
Turn off towards Pretoria Bridge

That will take you to the intersection of Hawthorne Avenue and Colonel By, on the east side of Pretoria Bridge. Things get a little tricky here. I recommend crossing to the opposite corner and walking your bike for a short distance along the sidewalk south to where it veers left along Echo Drive, like so.

Getting over to Echo Drive, far away in time
Getting over to Echo Drive

Another option when traffic isn’t too bad, is to ride south along Colonel By Drive the short distance from the intersection to the meridian just before Echo Drive where there is a reserved bike exit lane.

Bike turn lane from Colonel By Drive to Echo Drive just south of Pretoria Bridge
Bike turn lane from Colonel By Drive to Echo Drive just south of Pretoria Bridge

Turn down the first street you come to on your left which will be Graham Avenue. It has a bike lane.

Graham Ave
Graham Ave

Graham ends at Main Street. The route jogs a bit to the right before continuing as Lees Avenue across the intersection.

End of east bound bike lane along Graham, looking across Main St to Lees Ave
End of east bound bike lane along Graham, looking across Main St to Lees Ave

There is a bike lane along Lees heading east, but it doesn’t start for a hundred yards or so beyond the lights at Main.

Lees Avenue bike lane
Lees Avenue bike lane

The Lees bike lane abruptly ends at Chestnut Street. Drivers always speed along Lees Avenue so I turned onto Chestnut. This took me to Springhurst Ave.

At the end of Springhurst get on the stone dust path and veer left for a short distance along the edge of the Rideau River.

Path at the end of Springhurst
Path at the end of Springhurst

Take the path along the transitway bridge over the river, like so.

Bridge over the Rideau River
Bridge over the Rideau River

Follow along the path past the big OC Transpo gathering spot.

OC Transpo sea, by the dawns early light.
OC Transpo gathering spot.

Continue straight on towards the Riverside Drive/ Industrial Avenue intersection. Now I won’t deny this is a spooky major vehicule intersection, however don’t let it intimidate you. There are usually many other pedestrians and cyclists crossing at this spot and the path does continue on the other side of Riverside Drive along Industrial Avenue.

Riverside Drive and Industrial Avenue
Riverside Drive and Industrial Avenue

Continue along Industrial Avenue, past the giant metal flowers installed in Cancer Survivors Park.

Big flowers
Big flowers

The first street you will come to is Alta Vista Drive. There is a bike path that starts at the south east corner of Alta Vista and Industrial. Follow it.

Path off the corner of AltaVista and Industrial
Path off the corner of AltaVista and Industrial

It ends a short distance on at Blair Street. Turn right on Blair, then take an immediate left on Station Boulevard. Follow Station Boulevard right to the end where there’s a bike path that takes you through to Ring Road.

Bike path at the end of Station Boulevard
Bike path at the end of Station Boulevard

Turn left on Ring Road, which rings around our first destination – the Ottawa Hospital General Campus!

Riverside Hospital
Ottawa Hospital General Campus

For those interested in continuing on further into Ottawa South, exit the Ring Road at the first left which is a car entrance to the grounds of the hospital. Turn right on Roger Guindon Avenue, and follow it all the way to Smyth Road. Across Smyth you will see the start of another bike path. This one is really great, because it travels right across Ottawa South through mostly green space all the way to Walkley Road, and goes past the very impressive Kilborn allotment gardens. Our journey ends here, however for those that wish to travel even further south there are bike lanes along Conroy Road as far as Hunt Club Road. Have a great commute!

Ottawa South

Et voila!

A Tour of InsulBrick Covered Homes Around Ottawa & Gatineau

InsulBrick is a tar coated fibreboard siding introduced in the 1930’s which remained popular up to and through the 1960’s. It has a slightly embossed stone or brick pattern and added granular material on the outer surface. It hasn’t been manufactured since the early 70’s, so what’s out there is the original material. All surviving examples show signs of aging, some gracefully, others, some may argue, not so much. Regardless, all suggest a rich history of protecting generations of occupants through many decades. Here’s a tour of dwellings that I’ve noticed in the area still wrapped in the stuff.

First stop is on the edge of the Gatineau River along Rue Jacques Cartier, a bit north of the Lady Aberdeen Bridge. It appears to be holding its own.

InsulBrick in Gatineau
InsulBrick in Gatineau

Next stop is in Hintonburg at the corner on Hinchey and Armstrong, not far from the Parkdale Market. This one’s my favorite. It has a bunch of nice touches, like an old wooden front door (not in picture) and round wooden porch columns. One senses a lot of tender loving care goes into maintaining this home.

InsulBrick in Hintonburg
InsulBrick in Hintonburg

Last stop is in Chinatown on Arthur Street, a block away from home. This is the saddest of the lot, as it is gradually crumbling into complete disrepair. You can see the exposed original wood siding beneath where the Insulstone is falling away. (Nov ’13 update – This house recently caught fire. So sad.)

InsulBrick in Chinatown
InsulBrick in Chinatown

So there you have it – a tour of some of the few remaining InsulBrick covered houses in the region.

Oct 2014 update – I’ve posted a second tour of Insulbrick covered houses in the region. Click here!

 

Conroy Pit

Conroy Pit is a very popular off leash dog park within the south-east part of the Greenbelt, but it is also a great place to explore by bike. Here’s how I did so early Monday morning. Blue line is the route I rode there, red line is the way I biked home.

To get there I followed the route described in this post, which took me all the way to the the corner of Hunt Club Road and the Airport Parkway off ramp. That went very well, however the next section along Hunt Club and Bank Street was hell. Speeding traffic weaving in and out of four and six lane traffic with no shoulders at all, that kind of hell. So I recommend following the much safer red route I took to get home. More on that later.

I accessed the park at the north west entrance where Quail Run Road ends, like so.

Access to Conroy Pit from the end of Quail Run Road
Access to Conroy Pit from the end of Quail Run Road

Once in the park the ground is pretty much packed sand everywhere, with a few loose spots, but nothing too difficult to negotiate on a hybrid bike. It would be a sinch on a mountain bike.

Path through Conroy Pit
Path through Conroy Pit

There is indeed a pit, on one side of which is a hill used for tobogganing in the winter.

Toboggan Hill
Toboggan Hill

There were a number of dogs running free along the path so I proceeded at a very comfy careful pace lest they decide to charge on over to say hi, or dart across the path after each other. I think there is an unwritten rule you don’t take aggressive dogs to an off leash park. All the dog walkers were very friendly as well, and, by all indications, very good at picking up after their pets so don’t worry about that.

Dog
Dog

There are also lots of small paths not plotted on a map that you could spend time discovering without worrying about getting too lost, as the park is pretty contained.

One of many side paths to discover
Small side path

The south eastern part is more wooded.

Path through the woods
Woods

Heading back to town I followed the bike lane along Conroy Road. It’s a busy commuter artery, but the bike lane was great for getting me safely all the way to Walkley Road.

Bike lane along Conroy Road
Bike lane along Conroy Road

At Walkley I hopped onto the bike path that runs along the Killborn Allotment Gardens, and then wove my way home along the route hi-lited in red. Et voila. Being in the pits can be fun!

Biking from Ottawa to Manotick and back early Sunday morning

The community of Manotick is a great destination for bikers. It is located a comfortable 30 km or so up the Rideau River from downtown Ottawa. The Village of Manotick was founded in 1859 by entrepreneurs Moss Dickinson and his partner Joseph Currier when they constructed a gristmill on the shores of the Rideau. Their well preserved and still functioning mill remains a symbolic focal point for the community in their attempts to preserve its small town character. Choosing a safe bike route to Manotick and back can be a challenge, so early last Sunday morning I set out to do so. Here’s what I came up with – blue line on the map below is how I got there, red line’s how I made it back. While plotting my route I leaned heavily on two other intrepid bikers who scouted out the journey to Manotick before me, and wrote about it here and here.

Early Sunday morning is a good time to ride along Prince of Wales Drive heading south. There is a generous shoulder to ride along for most of the way and few vehicules. During the week the ride is much less pleasant with a lot more traffic using it as as a major commuter artery into town, big trucks included.

Experimental Farm Ornamental Gardens looking good
Experimental Farm Ornamental Gardens looking good

The city has done a fine thing by removing the concrete protrusion that used to stick out from the edge of the road at the Hog’s Back intersection. Before bikers travelling along the shoulder of the road were suddenly obliged to merge into traffic. This fixes that.

Fixed sidewalk at Hog's Back intersection
Fixed sidewalk at Hog’s Back intersection

Unfortunately the problem persists at all other intersections between Hogs Back and Fallowfield Road, the worst instance being the approach to Rideau Heights Lane where Prince of Wales takes an uphill turn, providing little chance for overtaking traffic to notice riders. I rode off the road onto the well worn gravel path shown below. This worn path’s existence is indicative of how much this corner is a safety problem for bikers and pedestrians.

Crazy POW corner just before Rideau Heights Lane
Crazy POW corner just before Rideau Heights Lane

So, be extra careful wherever Prince of Wales meets another street. Otherwise, enjoy the scenery, like this interesting old dead tree.

Dead tree in a field
Dead tree in a field

I’ve heard that Prince of Wales from Fallowfield Road to Manotick is pretty treacherous so I avoided it by riding along residential streets and a wonderful stone dust path through the woods. Here’s how. First, turn off Prince of Wales onto Fallowfield. It has a generous bike lane, as does Merivale Road, onto which I turned and headed south.

Golden Fields
Golden Fields along Merivale Road

Leave Merivale and turn onto Leikin Drive, along which there’s a generous shoulder AND a recreational pathway to choose from, like so.

Gotta be Leikin this!
Gotta be Leikin this!

Leikin turns into Cresthaven Drive and the bike lane disapears, but the ride is through residential areas which have very little traffic on Sunday mornings. Cross Strandherd, and turn onto a path that runs alongside heading east like so.

Path parallel to Strandherd Drive
Path parallel to Strandherd Drive

This will alternate between short stretches of paths and streets until you get to Bakewell Crescent. The Strandherd Bridge across Prince of Wales is still being constructed, so I went and took a closer look. Pretty amazing structure. UPDATE– July 2014: The bridge is completed, and it’s pretty impressive! I test rode it shortly after it opened and described it in this post.

Strandherd Bridge under construction
Strandherd Bridge under construction

Follow Bakewell Crescent to Rocky Hill Drive, which crosses Prince of Wales to Lodge Road. Very pleasant little street, with the Rideau River on one side, and the Carleton Lodge Long Term Care Home on the other, which must hold the title for the most eclectic collection of birdhouse architecture in the region.

Birdhouses!
Birdhouses!

To get over the Jock River one has no other choice but to get back on Prince of Wales Drive. Fortunately there is a shoulder along this stretch, like so.

POW over Jock River
POW over Jock River

Once over the bridge there is a gravel path on the Rideau River side that takes you down to a trail which you will need to cross over Prince of Wales to get to, like so.

How to get to the trail on the other side of Jock River
How to get to the trail on the other side of Jock River

The trail weaves its way through woods and over little streams flowing to the Rideau River.

Path through the woods
Path through the woods

At one point the path splits. There aren’t any directional signs so I chose to veer left along the river, which led to this series of flat faced boulders strategically placed to help get across a brook. It was very easy to negotiate carrying my bike, however if this seems inconvenient (trailer pulling, loaded panneirs, etc), the map suggests that, by following a path to the right towards the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority building, you can avoid this zen garden-ish method of river crossing. But I’m not sure, didn’t check. My apologies.

Zen Crossing
Zen Crossing

Eventually the trail comes out at Lockview Road. For a more detailed description of the trail just travelled, albeit heading in the opposite direction, click here.

I then rode along Barnsdale Road to get onto Long Island, which sits in the middle of the Rideau River.

Rideau River from Barnsdale Road bridge
Rideau River from Barnsdale Road bridge

Turn onto McLean Crescent, until you reach a path that takes you through George McLean Park. You’ll recognize it by the hockey boards all up and ready for next season.

Path through McLean Park
Path through McLean Park

Once through the park carry on along West River Drive and cross Bridge Street on into AY Jackson Park, named after one of the Group of Seven painters who lived in Manotick for a spell. Ride on down the path to the great lookout over the river towards Watson’s Mill. Et voila – made it to Manotick!

Watson's Mill
Watson’s Mill

Time to head back to Ottawa on the east side of the river, but before doing so I explored the southern tip of Long Island, which is mostly residential with a mix of big bushy trees, like so.

Various big bushy trees on Long Island
Various big bushy trees on Long Island

Then over to the north-east shore via Bridge St. As you can see it was pretty busy even on a Sunday morning. Cars also tend to speed over this bridge, so, depending on the amount of traffic, you might consider walking your bike along the sidewalk.

Bridge Street
Bridge Street

Bridge Street becomes Mitch Owen Drive. It’s got a shoulder, but it’s got lots of fast traffic too.

Mitch Owens Drive
Mitch Owens Drive

I prefer roads with less traffic even if they are shoulder less, so I turned up Spratt Road.

Spratt Road
Spratt Road

The above photo is also the intersection where I turned east onto Rideau Road, which is similar to Spratt Road in terms of surface quality, amount of traffic and farmland scenery. I Continued along Rideau Road until Bowesville Road where I turned north. Very nice road – not much traffic and excellent shoulders. AND, if your timing is right, you might spot a big metal low flying bird.

It's a bird! It's a plane!! It's Super.... no sorry, it's a plane.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!! It’s Supe…., it’s a plane.

When you get to the end of Bowesville Road Where it crosses Leitrim Road you will be greeted by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire and no access signs. Fear not! There’s an inconspicuous access point right where the arrow is pointing for cyclists and pedestrians to get through.

Access to High Road
Access to High Road

Once you’re through, follow the road around the airport. The Uplands Drive intersection and stretch to the Airport Parkway was a bit confusing and felt like a freeway off ramp. There is a generous bike lane along Uplands that takes you under the Airport Parkway, like so, but be extra careful as it crosses merging traffic lanes, and cars always seem to be rushing to and from the airport.

Uplands bike lane
Uplands bike lane

Once clear of the Airport Parkway, Uplands is endowed with great big shoulders like so, making it a pleasure to ride along.

Uplands shoulders
Uplands shoulders

It’s also very popular with the zip-zip set. This was the third pack that passed me heading in the opposite direction.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!.....
Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!

Now the next trick is finding a safe way to the recreational path along Mooneys Bay, which primarily means avoiding riding along Hunt Club Road, Riverside Drive and Walkley Road, all very busy, not very bike friendly roads. Here’s how: Continue along Uplands across Hunt Club. Turn right on Cahill Drive West and then left on Twyford Steet. Than cut through to Annapolis along this short path.

Path to Annapolis
Path to Annapolis

Turn left on Annapolis, left on McCarthy, left onto Southmore Drive West and finally left on Fielding Drive for just a short distance until you reach a short path on the right like so.

Fielding path
Fielding path

It takes you under the train tracks through to Otterson Drive.

Nineteen-seventy-tchoo-choo!!!
Nineteen-seventy-tchoo-choo!!!

Shortly after Otterson Drive curves left there is another short path like so….

Path through Otterson park
Path through Otterson park

Which takes you through to the Riverside United Church Parking lot.

Riverside United Church
Riverside United Church

Cross Riverside to the path that takes you through Mooneys Bay. Continue along the path, cross the bridge over Hogs Back Falls, and, if you wish, check out a regatta.

Regatta be kidding!
Regatta be kidding!

It being Sunday, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to bike right down Colonel By Drive which is closed for Sunday Bike Days. So there you go. A fine early Sunday morning ride to Manotick. Happy Trails!

Biking to Blue Skies Music Festival from Ottawa

Last Thursday I biked to a friend’s cottage on Sharbot Lake just south of the Blue Skies music festival, and then rode up to the festival site the following morning to set up our tent. Here’s how it went.

To get out of Ottawa I followed the Ottawa River Pathway and Watts Creek Pathway as far as Moodie Drive. A description of those paths can be found on this post. Rather than follow Watts Creek Pathway which continues on the other side of Moodie, I rode along Corkstown Road to where it meets the Greenbelt Pathway before it goes under the Queensway.

Following Corkstown Road............ to where it joins the Greenbelt Pathway
Corkstown Road, and the turn off to the Greenbelt Pathway under the Queensway

This section of the Greenbelt Pathway is a very pleasant meander through fields and woods.

Greenbelt Path1

Greenbelt Pathway
Greenbelt Pathway

I followed this path as far as Robertson Road to where it joins the rail-to-trail path that takes you all the way to Carleton Place, as described in this post. This time I rode through the rain, which made the crushed gravel a little slower going.

Carleton Place has a number of fine heritage buildings to ponder on your way through, such as the Town Hall on the edge of the Mississippi River.

Carleton Place Town Hall
Carleton Place Town Hall

I crossed the Mississippi at Bridge Street, and then headed South West on High Street – a safe road to bike down, with big old houses on either side as you head out of town.

Old house on High Street
House on High Street

I then followed the Trans-Canada Highway for a 4km stretch. The Trans-Canada is a terrible two lane road to ride on. Folks drive along it as fast as they can to get from point a to b. That includes big transport trucks. Fortunately the section heading out of Carleton Place has a small paved shoulder and packed gravel that’s ride-able. I regret not having a small mirror attached to my helmet or handle bars to anticipate trucks roaring up behind me. It would have helped brace myself for the backdraft that shakes you on your bike as they pass.

4km stretch along the Trans-Canada Highway between Carleton Place and Tatlock Road
4km stretch along the Trans-Canada Highway between Carleton Place and Tatlock Road

I turned onto Tatlock Road, a two laner that wasn’t too busy.

Tatlock Road
Tatlock Road, heading towards Blue Skies

Before this trip I hadn’t realised how generous Google Maps is in their interpretation of what constitutes a road, that is until I reached the turn off to Forest Road.

Forest Road
Forest Road

That’s OK, says I. Carla had a copy of my route and my phone still had batteries, so off I went down Forest Road. It was a little bumpy, but quite bikeable.

After crossing Old Perth Road, Forest Road became much more navigable, like so.

Old Perth Road
Forest Road beyond Old Perth Road

Concession Road 1 Ramsay and Boyds Road which became Ferguson Falls Road were very similar – packed gravel through farmland. Very nice to bike along.

This Methodist graveyard along Ferguson Falls Road is located just before Pine Grove Road, or Route 12. I was struck by the landscape’s layers of rich contrasting colours.

Methodist Cemetery
Methodist Cemetery

I quickly discovered cars like to travel fast along route 12. Not as fast as on the Trans Canada, but still pretty fast.

Heading down Route 12
Heading down Route 12

There were also a number of dump trucks travelling in the opposite direction, that I soon discovered were heading away from a huge quarry just off Route 12.

Dump Truck Alley
Dump Truck Alley

I rode into Lanark Village and paused long enough to buy liquids at their general store. I sensed this was a very special place, full of resilience and rich heritage. This building for example, that someone is conserving and re-pointing. I’ve since found this walking tour of Lanark Village that describes some of the towns origins. Can’t wait to re-visit.

Back to life in Lanark
Back to life in Lanark

Route 12 heading South of Lanark felt a lot safer with fewer cars and a nice wide shoulder in places.

Route 12 South of Lanark
Route 12 South of Lanark

Lot’s of cedar post fences like these.

Cedar post fence
Cedar post fence

They are also right in the middle of paving the road further south in a way that suggests a wider shoulder will be in the offing. While I was humming along on this fresh asphalt I almost missed a little sign indicating Hunter Side Road, which was supposed to be my next turn. Where was the road? Just there, over the edge where the white arrow is pointing.

Hunter Side Road
?

And voila – Hunter Side Road!

Hunter Side Road
Hunter Side Road

I turned onto Bennett Lake Road, which is the perfect country road to bike along – very little traffic, and the few vehicules that did overtake me slowed right down and gave me lots of room.

Route 19
Bennett Lake Road

After crossing Elphin-Maberley Road, Bennett Lake Road became 11th Line Road, surfaced in a light coloured packed gravel excellent for biking.

11th Line Road
11th Line Road

11th Line joins Zealand Road which is paved and just as great as Bennett Lake Road.

Old house along Zealand Road
Old house along Zealand Road

Turned onto Bell Line Road, which is a brown gravel surface, that alternates between packed and loose, still very good for biking.

Bell Line Road
Bell Line Road

Next turn will be onto the K&P Trail which crosses Bell Line Road. There isn’t a sign indicating where the trail crosses Bell Line Road. Here’s what the intersection looks like.

K&P Trail crossing
K&P Trail crossing

The trail is mostly packed dirt and gravel, like so.

K&P Trail
K&P Trail

However there are a couple of short stretches where they’ve put down some stones for draining which may require dismounting and walking your bike.

Stones along short section of K&P Trail
Stones along short section of K&P Trail

There’s a beaver house just off the trail along one of these stretches.

Beaver hut
Beaver hut

The trail crosses Clarendon Road, which you will know you’ve reached by the abandoned station house on the opposite side of the road.

Clarendon Train Station
Clarendon Train Station

Follow Clarendon Road for a short bit to get to the entrance of the festival site. It’s hilly and narrow so watch out for cars heading to the festival.

Et voila! Time for Blue Skies.

Mika jamming at Blue Skies
Mika jamming with friends